Posted by: Marie | December 14, 2010

(465) Loaded for bear – Part 3 of 4

Post #465
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]

———–

Edward: Smaller? How old were you when your dad started hitting you?

Me: He said children are old enough to be spanked when they are around six months old – so I’m assuming that is when he started spanking all of us.

Edward: Six months!!?!?!!?!?? Children don’t even know right from wrong until age two!

(He seemed genuinely angry about this – I just stared at him because I’ve never seen someone get upset about this before. The thought has never crossed my mind that me getting hit at six months of age is something that ought to be upsetting.)

Photo by Martin Chen

Edward: So you were maybe 15 pounds (7 kg) when your dad started hitting you?

Me: Yeah, I guess so.

Edward: A 180-pound man and a 15-pound baby . . .

(I don’t remember the rest of what he said)

Me: I actually wrote something about this in a later paragraph. Do you want me to jump down to that paragraph?

Edward: Sure . . .

Me:

“I watched my niece get spanked when she was 18 months old. You had to hold her upright by one arm while you spanked her with your other hand because she couldn’t stay balanced while you were hitting her. I remember the look of shock on her face. I was 10 years old, that was 32 years ago, but I remember it clearly.”

Edward: Do you know that holding a child’s arm while spanking her can break her arm?

Me: I imagine so . . .

Edward: Your dad had to hold her while he spanked her because she was not big enough to stay balanced . . .

(I don’t remember the rest of what he said)

———–

At this point in the conversation, I began zoning out. I don’t remember much about the next 10-15 minutes of the session. I don’t remember what Edward said and I only have a general idea of what parts of the letter I read out loud – but I don’t actually remember reading those parts of the letter. Here is what I believe I read out loud:

“You explained that other people said kids that young couldn’t understand right from wrong and couldn’t understand punishment. But, you assured me they did. You said you had started spanking all of us as soon as we could make eye contact and become defiant, which was at about six months old, you said. You said that, if you spank a kid that young, they learn early to not misbehave because they understand pain as a consequence . . . you can’t talk to them, so you have to use pain. I believed you and I spewed that same gospel until I reached adulthood and started questioning what I had been taught about many things.

“Did you ever question your philosophy? When you hit me/us when we were that young and we got a look of terror on our face, did that not ever trigger your sense of protectiveness?”

I’m sure there was some discussion about that, but I don’t remember what was said. Then, I believe I read this part of the letter out loud:

“When I peed my pants, when my legs buckled under me, did you not have even the briefest moment where you thought, ‘This is not right’? How could you not? I know for a fact you know what it is like to be in my shoes. In your childhood, you were beat by your own drunken father, you protected your mom and your younger siblings from him. I know you could not have forgotten what that was like. Did you think it was okay to do it to me because you weren’t drunk and out-of-control? But, you weren’t always in control, were you? Not when you slapped me in the face when I was 16.

“I am grateful that you worked so hard and provided a home for me.”

I remember making a comment about that last sentence . . . that I had included it in the letter because I was feeling guilty about complaining so much – I had inserted that solitary sentence smack dab in the middle of my complaining to mitigate my guilt.

I think I read this part of the letter next:

“Could you not have found a better way? Could you not have at least investigated other ways? Was that too much work? I know you worked very hard and that you always felt like you were barely making it, barely able to provide for your family. But, could you have maybe not gone to church 3-4 times a week for a few weeks and taken that time to consider other possibilities? Could you maybe have taken that time to have tea parties with me?”

Then, I remember Edward saying something along the lines of, “You were her father! She wanted protection from you! You could have put your arms around her . . .” I don’t remember what else he was saying, but I remember being very focused on the words, “. . . put your arms around her . . .” At the same time, Edward happened to move around in his chair and stretch his legs out in front of him. His feet ended up a little bit closer than they had been to where I was sitting.

I got triggered.

A silent voice inside of me starting screaming, “He’s gonna come over here and put his arm around you to show you what your dad could have done. Don’t let him! Don’t let him! Tell him to stop!!!”

Logically, I knew Edward was not going to come anywhere near me. He has never touched me – he didn’t even shake my hand on the first day we met. We have had zero physical contact and I know he is making sure that remains the case for at least the foreseeable future. But, the silently screaming voice was not comforted by this logic – not one bit.

I sat frozen in a panic for about 30 seconds. Then, I talked myself into saying something as a way to re-establish a sense of safety . . . I interrupted Edward mid-thought (I wasn’t absorbing what he was saying, anyway, because I was staring at his feet) . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Responses

  1. I’m not at all surprised that Edward was angry. I am too.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I appreciate the expression of your anger . . . I still feel rather detached about the whole matter . . . I guess it will take time for me to really understand, on an emotional level, how wrong it was.

      – Marie

  2. And so am I. I can’t fathom the ignorance and cruelty that would lead someone to use pain to control a baby…it’s horrible.

    • Hey, David –

      It really is beneficial to hear/read from other people how angry they are . . . it creates space for me to be angry. Thank you!

      – Marie

  3. Horrible cruelty towards a child being described in this post. I am sick from it

  4. Marie,
    That post really got me…I read it and had almost a physical reaction to the words. I’m going to rant here. I know you have a hard time feeling anything, especially anger about what happened to you.

    But this whole notion that gets parroted a lot by so many people, including me sometimes–“they did the best they could.” What does that even mean? What a ridiculous way to remove responsibility and culpability from people.

    Your father did not do the best he could. Beating an infant is not “doing the best you could.” Ridiculous. I’m sorry but it does make me furious. This guy robbed you of your childhood. Your parents robbed you of a great portion of your life, and here you’re left holding the bag and trying to make excuses for it all.

    Well the sad fact is there’s no excuse. Some people are horrible, unfit parents, and that’s what you had. I don’t know why and frankly I don’t care why they were unfit. Yes, things were different in those days and many older people believe it’s justified to sometimes spank or strike children.

    But what you’ve described here–and what I believe is true–is that you were physically and emotionally abused way beyond the parameters of what any normal, reasonable person would be able to explain.

    You should feel angry. What was done to you was unconscionable. Period. End of story. I think about what I did when I saw my nieces being emotionally abused and neglected–and the physical abuse pales in comparison to what you went through. Even the emotional abuse I witnessed is not on par with what you describe. And yet based on that I reported them to DCF, confronted them in their therapists office, and no longer speak with my brother and his wife.

    I still (obviously) have intense feelings about it. These are children getting their lives ruined because their parents are too confused, troubled, and dishonest to do anything about their problems.

    Is it my job to excuse them or anyone else who unnecessarily harms and abuses innocent, defenseless creatures? I think not.

    It’s not my job to make excuses for these people–criminals, in my mind. They do enough excuse making without me helping them.

    You deserve to have a happy life. Happiness is out there and very possible. But unfortunately your primary caregivers taught you and tried to show you that it didn’t exist. Like taking a plant and keeping it in your basement without sunlight and trying to say that the sun doesn’t exist. it does. Step out of the basement and see it for yourself.

    Sorry for the rant.

    • Hey, Aaron –

      I welcome your rants! It really helps me when others are angry on my behalf. So, thank you for that!

      You are right . . . all of this seemed so normal to me back then . . . and, it still seems normal to me now, to some extent, given the timeframe. I wouldn’t dream of treating my own child like that (if I had one) because I know better. But, I still struggle with what you said . . . it was the best they knew.

      Edward is still working with me to shift that . . . I guess what is so difficult is that there were good times . . . there were times filled with loving behaviors . . . and, now, my mom and I have a very loving relationship. It is so hard for me to reconcile the woman she is now and the woman who allowed and participated in the events of 30-40 years ago.

      Anyway . . . I appreciate what you have written here. Know I am taking it all in and am working very hard to shift my current experience of what happened then.

      – Marie

  5. Marie, you’re doing the work and I salute you. But just realize, whatever “good times” there were–you ended up feeling that you’d rather be dead, or at least don’t care much if you live.

    There’s only one reason that I can see for your outlook. It’s because you were so deprived as a child that you don’t realize how much joy and happiness life can hold. That understanding was robbed from you, stolen by your primary caregivers.

    But the fact still remains that happiness and joy and contentment in life exists, just as much as the words on this screen exist. You will find it, along with your outrage that someone ever tried to take it from you.

  6. Hi Aaron, A comment about ‘they did the best they could’. This may make me unpopular but here we go.

    The difference it makes is when working with the abusers. If they really did believe they were doing good they may be open to change. (Naturally they may be lying to themselves and others.) It may be that they can learn that they are being unkind to themselves as well as others.

    What this doesn’t make any difference to is the experience of those who suffered their cruelty. If we are in a car accident that is a genuine accident we still have to deal with the consequences for ourselves. We have to deal with our experience – however well intentioned the other person may be. To invalidate our own experience by pointing out that the others weren’t entirely evil doesn’t help us, it usually I think gets in the way of our meeting our own experience.

    • Makes sense Evan, makes total sense. And you’re right, if I had a friend or something that had been the abuser and came to me to talk about it, I might take that position. But it’s a position based on the notion that there is some kind of repentance or remorse at some level.

      I don’t really believe in making that excuse or taking that position with people who are are insistent on defending, lying or otherwise continuing to abuse others.

      As an abusive person myself in the past, it was only through my own efforts to change and my remorse that allowed any change to occur. Now I can look back and say it was the best I could do–but I still have the guilt and remorse and I always will–as it should be, I think.

      Also, I am not a therapist so that changes my take on this…

  7. We agree Aaron.

  8. Hey, Aaron and Evan –

    I don’t have much to add to your discussion because I’m still processing everything that was said (and am getting good insight from it) . . . other than to say “thank you” for the great exchange. I had some big “ah hah!” moments as a result. (I’ll share more in a later post.)

    – Marie


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